Student Highlight: Halinka Zolcik Lands Elite Fellowship Position

Third-year law student Halinka Zolcik has been awarded a fellowship position with the DSC_2680_Immigration Justice Corps, one of the most prestigious legal fellowship positions in the country.

The Immigration Justice Corps is a fellowship program that was created by Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in partnership with the Robin Hood Foundation. The two-year fellowship matches the country’s most talented law school graduates with top host organizations in New York City and surrounding areas to serve as legal advocates in immigration.

The Fellowship is awarded to a mere twenty-five individuals out of hundreds of applications. Those coveted positions are reserved for the best of the best embarking on a career in immigration law, and are usually filled with graduates from Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown. Zolcik is the first student from the University of Wyoming to be considered for the program.

Born in Prague, Czech Republic, Zolcik and her family immigrated to the United States as a small child. She grew up in Gillette, Wyoming. As a first-generation immigrant, she was drawn to the field through her own experience. She chose to attend the University of Wyoming College of Law for it’s robust clinical programs and the opportunity to gain practical skills, a decision that has proven to be instrumental to her success.

She currently serves as the Student Director in the International Human Rights Clinic at the College of Law. In this capacity, she carries a caseload of clients seeking help through the U.S. immigration system under the supervision of the Faculty Director, Professor Suzan Pritchett.

With Pritchett at the helm, the Clinic has expanded from asylum cases into other forms of humanitarian relief efforts including special immigrant juvenile status, U visas, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) advisement issues, green card process adjustment, and family based petitions.

Working in the clinic, Zolcik has gained valuable experience on a variety of immigration issues. She has already appeared in the Denver Immigration Court five times this semester, and has performed every aspect of representing a client from start to finish.  The Clinic is also how she learned of the Fellowship opportunity.

“Halinka is an exceptional student,” says Pritchett. “I encouraged her to apply for the Fellowship because I was confident that she would be a strong contender for one of the positions. Her hands-on experience in the IHR Clinic has guaranteed that she is ready to hit the ground running in a fast-paced advocacy environment, and I think that was a major factor in her selection for the fellowship position.”

The application process for the Fellowship was long and rigorous. Zolcik had to submit numerous essays, letters of recommendation, and go through multiple rounds of interviews. With a carefully crafted portfolio of all her work in the Clinic, she blew the interview panel away.

“The interviewers on the panel didn’t know anything about Wyoming. They were surprised that we do immigration work here, and also by the breadth and depth of the work that we do in the Clinic,” she comments. “In Wyoming you can get this experience that rivals other clinical programs on an international level. The panel said they had never seen a current law student with that much experience.”

Among her many talents, Zolcik is also an accomplished linguist, fluent in five languages – English, Czech, Polish, French and Spanish. Utilizing her skills often in the Clinic, it was also an ability that proved useful in the application process.

“During the interview, members of the panel would randomly switch to Spanish just to test that I actually spoke multiple languages,” she says. “It really throws you off to immediately switch languages, so it was a very intimidating experience.”

Professor Pritchett stresses how impressive this achievement really is.

“Not only was Halinka up against students from some of the most competitive law schools in the country, she was also up against recent graduates that have already served as immigration court clerks and federal law clerks for the past two-years,” says Pritchett. “The fact that her abilities and experience at Wyoming can rival those other people is not something that should be taken lightly.”

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Suzan Pritchett joined the College of Law faculty as an Assistant Professor and the Director of the International Human Rights Clinic in the fall of 2014. Prior to joining the permanent faculty, she was a Visiting Professor and the Robert J. Golten Fellow at the College of Law, where she co-directed the Center for International Law and Advocacy. Professor Pritchett has also worked in private practice representing clients in federal immigration matters. In addition to her clinical and scholastic endeavors, Pritchett is the foremost expert on immigration law in the state of Wyoming and has been a dedicated leader in internationalization efforts within the University of Wyoming.  

Zolcik credits her success to Professor Pritchett, the International Human Rights Clinic, and her education at the College of Law.

“I am so grateful for the clinic experience,” she says. “Here we are able to take on numerous clients and have the incredible supervision of Professor Pritchett. Additionally, the small class sizes allowed me to do multiple things like the Clinic, while still being able to excel academically.”

Zolcik also acknowledges the Trial Practice Program as a contributing factor to her advocacy abilities. Through the course, she was able to polish her trial skills and feel confident in a courtroom.

“Halinka is a really good lawyer in a difficult multi-cultural lawyering environment,” notes Pritchett. “Navigating the different needs of each client, overcoming language barriers, and interpreting the legal system and communicating that to the clients so they feel well represented is a challenge. Halinka is very skilled. She advocates for her clients with compassion, but also shows real strength both in her written advocacy and in the courtroom.”

Zolcik has been paired with Prisoners Legal Services of New York as her host organization. She’ll begin the Fellowship in September after sitting for the Bar Exam.

Though Zolcik is the first ever Wyoming student to be accepted into the Immigration Justice Corps, the College of Law hopes that she is the first of many, and is exceedingly proud to produce such capable and skilled graduates.

Student Highlight: Kendra Winslow and Externship Jury Trial

DSC_2327-4Over the course of the last semester, the externship program at the University of Wyoming College of Law has seen a significant boom in participation from both students and outside agencies to provide hands-on experience for law students during their legal education. This thriving program provides an alternative way for students to gain experience in the legal profession outside of the clinical opportunities. In addition to the mentorship and educational value inside each employment site, students gain course credit through the law school by satisfying classroom assignments in conjunction with their placement.

For students that take advantage of the externship program, the benefits can be unparalleled. One such student recently had the opportunity to try a jury trial in front of the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District…and won.

This spring, second-year law student Kendra Winslow has been an extern in the Office of the District Attorney, First Judicial District, in Cheyenne. She has been working under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney, Ben Sherman, a 2012 graduate of the University of Wyoming College of Law. Sherman primarily handles drug cases in Circuit Court.

“From the first day of my externship, my supervisor has had me speaking in court and taking a very active role in the proceedings,” she says. “My daily role in the office has included attending court to represent the state in jail proceedings, initial appearances, motion hearings, traffic court, and bench trials when they are scheduled. My externship has been a crash course in prosecutorial duties. I have learned to make charging decisions, determine bond amounts for defendants, interview victims and witnesses, and most importantly, I have begun to learn important trial skills.”

While Winslow has gained some extremely valuable practical experience through her externship, the pinnacle of her experience would most certainly have to be participating in a jury trial with Sherman in March 2016.

Winslow was included on all aspects of the trial, from preparation and pre-trial conferences to the actual courtroom litigation. According to Sherman, the office wanted to make sure that she was gaining the experience she needed, and was confident that she was capable of stepping up to the task.

“Kendra did a fantastic job in the jury trial,” says Sherman. “She did everything she was supposed to do perfectly and we hold her in very high regard.”

During the trial, Winslow performed the opening statement, the direct examination of the victim in case, the direct examinations of officers involved in the case, as well as the 911 operator. She also performed the cross examination of one of the witnesses for the defense. Following the result of the trial, Winslow was also able to get feedback from jurors, as well as the presiding Judge on the case about her performance.

“The experience of trial was very interesting and educational, and it was made even more rewarding when the jury returned a guilty verdict in the State’s favor” she says. “I learned so much from being able to work a case through from beginning to end, and from observing my supervising attorney in court. I feel very fortunate that through the College of Law and the externship program, I have been able to have this opportunity and gain so much courtroom experience as a 2L.”

Winslow is from Longmont, Colo. She earned her undergraduate degree from UW in Criminal Justice. So far in her law school career, she has also been involved in the International Human Rights Clinic and worked last summer in Cambodia on a project involving the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. She has also been active in the Inns of Court every month in Cheyenne, a perfect example of a proactive student taking advantage of all of the opportunities the College of Law affords.

“I just didn’t expect to get this much experience in law school and I’m so excited to go into practice with all of it under my belt,” she says. “I feel as a younger law student I don’t have all the work and life experience that maybe an older law student might have, so for me it has been really important just to latch on to all of those opportunities and make myself as marketable as possible.”

Winslow applied for the externship in the District Attorney’s office with the assistance of the Director of Career Services, Ashli Tomisich. Stepping into the role to coordinate the externship program, Tomisich is tasked with interfacing between the students and the employers to facilitate a successful placement. She provides the continuity of communication between the law school and interested outside agencies to make sure that both the needs of the employer and the student are met and that they are ideally matched.

Additionally, she is responsible for coordinating and grading assignments that the students are required to fulfill through their placement for course credit. The objective of the assignments is to create a meaningful dialogue between the student and the employer related to and including career choices, ethical issues, and mentorship.

“I really enjoyed the assignments, it made it so I was able to formulate a great relationship with my supervisor and Ashli was really helpful giving advice,” praises Winslow. “It was wonderful to have that kind of support built into the program going out for the first time into the legal field.”

These externship placements provide invaluable insight and practical experience into the world of law, while the students are still in school. UW has an impressive list of externship positions and hopes to continue to grow the program in the future. The intangible benefits gained through time and mentorship will continue to help graduates make meaningful contributions to the Bar as soon as they begin to practice.

The College of Law is extremely proud of all that Winslow has accomplished during one short semester of law school and hope that other students will seize the same opportunities!

 

7/21/15: National Black Prosecutors Association Annual Job Fair – Registration Now Open

Registration has opened for the National Black Prosecutors Association Annual Job Fair taking place on Tuesday, July 21st at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, D.C.  All Job fair participants can mail in their payment, registration form and resume or register online at www.blackprosecutors.org.  If lodging is needed, the Fairmont Hotel has extended a special Job Fair room rate of $133.00 per night for a single or double occupancy rooms.  To make reservations, interviewees should call the Fairmont Hotel at (202) 429-2400.  Please note that the Fairmont Hotel will not accept reservations under the NBPA conference block of rooms at the discounted rate until you are a registered job fair participant, therefore; job fair participants must register for the Job Fair prior to making hotel reservations.  

Etiquette Tip of the Week: Interview Check

One question students have been asking in the dining tutorials lately is: “If I have an interview meal, should I offer to pay the bill or at least pay for myself?”

I understand the thinking behind that.
“I want the interviewer to see I am a nice person.”
“I would buy the interviewer a Thanksgiving dinner to get this job.”
“I’m highly competitive and I’ve never lost a fight over a check.”

The answer: No, you should not offer to pay. The interviewer has invited you, so the interviewer should pay.

Whoever does the inviting, pays. If you invite someone out for a meal or coffee for an informational interview, you would pay the bill.

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Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (STEM) Job Fair

The University of Wyoming Center for Advising and Career Services is hosting a Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (STEM) Job Fair on Wednesday, February 18th from 10am-3pm in the Wyoming Union Ballroom.  If you’re interested in non-traditional opportunities and want to use your STEM background, you are encouraged to head over and do some networking.  The organizations listed below have registered to attend. For more detailed employer information (website, jobs/internships available, majors they hire, etc.) — log into your UW2Career account (using your WyoWeb credentials), click on the Career Events & Workshops menu, and select “Career Fair” under Category. Continue reading

Business, Government, Non-Profit, and Agriculture Job Fair

The University of Wyoming Center for Advising and Career Services is holding a Business, Government, Non-Profit, and Agriculture Job Fair next week on Tuesday, February 17th from 10am-3pm in the Wyoming Union Ballroom.  If you’re interested in non-traditional opportunities, you are encouraged to head over and do some networking.  The organizations listed below have registered to attend. For more detailed employer information (website, jobs/internships available, majors they hire, etc.) — log into your UW2Career account (using your WyoWeb credentials), click on the Career Events & Workshops menu, and select “Career Fair” under Category. Continue reading

AmeriCorps JD Funding – Spring & Summer 2015

AMERICORPS JD

300 service hours required to earn the education award can be completed anytime from when the application is accepted and the background check has been initiated through August 31, 2015.

PRIORITY AREAS: Priority will be given to applications from students who are serving veterans, military families or victims of disasters, or focusing on removing barriers to employment or housing. However, we also have many spots available for students working with other populations and in other areas of law.

Serving veterans can encompass many areas of public interest law, including but not limited to, housing, homelessness, public benefits, and family law.

Removing barriers to employment or housing can include sealing, expunging, and/or correcting criminal records; correcting credit reports; helping clients to obtain occupational licenses; restoring driver’s licenses that are necessary for work; and/or other applicable services focusing on legal barriers to employment or housing.

Some more examples of the type of work students can do within these priority areas include:

  • Direct legal services: intake, legal form preparation, performing client and witness interviews, advocating for clients by telephone and in person, attending hearings, assisting attorneys in legal representation, carrying out legal research and writing
  • Outreach and education: developing and distributing fact sheets, developing and delivering training on legal topics or on how to access legal services, ensuring potential clients are aware of their rights and available services
  • Capacity building: activities which build the capacity of your host organization or other organizations to provide services in the previously specified priority areas, such as an organizational assessment, compiling best practices, organizing focus groups, leading planning committees

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